The last several days have provided an opportunity to be reminded of one of the simple civilities that enhances the marital relationship. The cultural environment in which I grew up was not known for its gentility. Our farming community was a mixture of German and Eastern European immigrants. They were known for hard work, craftsmanship and a nonsense approach to life. Men were preoccupied with making a living and women with child bearing and rearing them under what we would today think of as rather primitive conditions. For example, most farms and ours included, did not have running water, indoor plumbing or heat other than the kitchen cold stove for cooking. Life was simple. People cared for each other. But, pleasantries of communication were not plentiful.
In this context children grew up being told what to do and learned the same pattern by telling young siblings what to do. Men told wives what do and likewise women told men what to do. “Harvey, get a bucket of coal, I’m about out.” Or, “Mary, heat some water so I can bath.” Or, “Sonny, get a broom and sweet the snow off my truck” are examples of the practical manner of communication that occurred in my home. In our context this seemed perfectly normal to my generation. We were taught when in polite company to remember our manners. But the occasion for the use of such language only occurred periodically so the practice did not become a natural part of communication in daily life.
My wife grew up in a well spoken cultured middle class family in the South. Her mother grew up in a well educated Middle America home with parents, grandparents and an aunt who were all teachers. She was an exceptional individual with grace and charm that garnered the respect of all who knew here. He father was a Romanic who charmed women from the black ladies who cleaned the office buildings of his business to the wife of the British Consultant.
Obviously, we were a clash of cultures. Out common Christian faith and commitment to do the will of God in our lives drew us together. But these two abstract realities left lots of practical living realities unreconciled. By God’s grace and a lot of patience exercised by Pam, we have been able to weave a subculture of our own. Frankly, God has used her wonderful linage to polish this old country boy.
Now, back to the simple civility I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. You see I’ve been under the weather for the past five days. One of those hurting all over, coughing all night, feeling miserable all day and can’t go to work experiences that would make a great add for the latest miracle cold remedy. Well, when I get that way, I regress to a telling mode. “Pam, get me some hot tea. Or, Put this ointment on my shoulders. Or, go get a thermometer and check my temperature.” After about the 15th such tell Pam very pleasantly and graciously look at me and said, “Have we forgotten our manners?”
What a simple thing! What a telling thing. It reveals how self-centered we are. How quickly life can become all about me. On one occasion she did not jump and do what I told her to do and it was not long before I ask again in an irritated tone. So quickly we can descend into the morass of James 4:1-3. We start demanding (lusting) and the other person begins to resist us leading to quarrelling. Pam did not resist or react. She graciously rebuked me. I thanked her.
One other thought about this simple thing. We are most vulnerable to regress to old patterns when we are physically compromised. It behooves us when we become ill to be prayerfully aware of old patterns, whether sinful or just lacking in the civility, and to be intentional to show respectfulness and graciousness towards our loved ones.